Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
So it has occurred to me, or the scales have fallen of my eyes and I have realised how profound, important and far reaching this statement Paul said actually is. From a simple understanding of English, or from watching the popular movie series of which I am a fan the Transformers, it is easy to see the meaning of the word Transformation. It is a change, often a radical one between one extreme to another and it is evident. It is not a slight shift from one edge to another, but something that by its very nature demands attention and is instantly recognisable. If from bad to good, the results can often be wonderful as I am sure residents of Dubai or Azerbaijan will attest; and as many a former prostitute, drug-dealer or common thief now changed will attest. The results in people are often staggering, mind-blowing even and a personal favourite of mine is the testimony of Brittni Ruiz; formerly an adult film star, but now a born again believer spreading the love of God in even the darkest places. I am sure that you can also think of a few that whisk the breath away from your mouth, and maybe you have wondered how on earth that is possible. And here in this simple statement, lies the answer-by a renewing of the mind.
A thinker, I have forgotten who said “We cannot solve the problems we are in by utilising the same thinking we used to create them;” something very true and profound, but that if you look at again is a derivative of the simple words of Paul; that the answer to see transformation, to see radical shifts lies in how we think or see things in our minds. Now when Paul wrote this, he was addressing a group of believers on how they were going to see their behaviours change and align to that which is of God but I realise now that this is a relevant word to so much more than stopping a negative habit you do not like; as destructive and ruinous as the habit may be, this word has so much more application. Have you ever looked at your community, and seen maybe listless youth, unemployed and whiling away the hours smoking weed and doing beer and women and longed to see a change? Have you ever moved through an African street and side to side glanced at infrastructure regal in a bygone age but as lost as an ant amongst termites; as a hyena amongst lions or as a donkey amongst horses in this age and time that is the 21st century? Have you ever been privy to a conversation where ideas and thoughts belonging to a darker and more ignorant past where hailed as present truth, where dogmas of tribalism and ethnicism [more subtle now, instead of “so and so” are idiots/monkeys/not human to more relational aspects of life that refuse to embrace the humanity of everyone but that preclude one from marrying, having friends, interacting with members of those whose skin and or customs, traditions, geographic location of birth and language differ] where discussed as gravely as undeniable and unquestionable truth and wondered how on earth we were ever going to see a world that is in a manner of speaking the love of God expressed in our way of life? It is a simple answer, and the answer is in the mind.
I have a great heart and longing to see Africa transformed, economically and culturally and I have come to realise I am not the only one with this longing, to be honest in every nation across this vast continent, I am sure many share this desire. However, in equal measure, we have the skeptics and the dreamers; those who believe it is nothing more than a vain hope and those intent on dreaming without action but to see any transformation; our minds must change. Another portion of scripture records 10 spies from the nation of Israel who had gone to spy on the land of Canaan who spoke of the presence of giants in the land of Canaan as “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:33) amongst other things and too often, this is the mentality that we have. Amongst the nations of the world, we see ourselves as nothing, as insignificant to the course that history is going to take in this world. We see ourselves incapable of building monuments and cities that will rival Dubai, Abhu Dhabhi and many of the oil countries; we see ourselves incapable of producing institutions as prestigious and excellent as Havard and Cambridge. We cannot see ourselves as a world leader in exotic honeymoon destinations and hotels nor as a centre of peace and development in the world. It is this kind of mentality that has brought this continent to where it is; plagued by corruption, thieves and incompetent and regressive policies and leaders without a heart for the people and for the land; to a place where Africa has incredible numbers of her populace drowning in miserly poverty in a land pregnant with reserves difficult to rival elsewhere in the world. It is this mind that must change, how we see ourselves, our potential and what can be that must be renewed to see the transformation of this landscape.
Some will argue that something is wrong with the skin of a black man; that there is just something superior with the whites that enables them to think about development and the future and that the intrinsic problem with the black man cannot be solved; it’s just there. Really? It is that sort of thinking that has brought us to this place. And if we are to see any sort of transformation, then in our minds we must change. Another thing revolts me as well: I believe it has been described as paternalism, this whole adoption by leaders religious and political where a position of wealth and influence is used to elevate one into the position of being a benefactor, a provider, father or whatever it is to a large population of underprivileged and poor folk who in most cases are uneducated. A paternalism manifesting in donor activities that do not lift anyone or correspond to a comprehensive, well-articulated and progressive development plan that leads the majority from the slums of poverty into a place of economic independence and capacity to think and act as an individual. This paternalism and the dependence mentality that emanates from this is sick and disgusting, vitriolic and bile inducing. That has no place in a society of individuals created to function as the glory of God on earth. No, it has none and I don’t care who is offended here. Fair and fine I understand some people may not get themselves out of a pit no matter how hard you try to dig them up, but that is no excuse to propagate the idea that one is a saviour to mankind and some invincible, infallible being who has all the solution to every manner of problem man has and is oneself immune to them. Please people, let us get real and honest. Wealth, influence, leadership are gifts to be used to lift others up, not as pitiful rags but as beloved brethren for only then can we begin to have institutions that tell of a fabric of social strength, unity in numbers and only then can we become a community we are happy to live in, to build homes in and send our children to school in. Only then can we become a community where I am not afraid what my neighbour may do or say to my child and where we can have the freedom and empowerment to be ourselves.
I have been writing for a bit of a while now, with several interruptions along the way and for today I want to come to an end here. May the good Lord richly bless you always.